Over a year ago, we clued you in on a strange case of he-said-she-said involving a homeowner and a BSO deputy in North Lauderdale. This week, the charges were dropped involving the case — after nearly two years of wheel-spinning and hair-pulling.
In December 2013, Valarie Joaceus, a North Lauderdale mother of two, got a call from a neighbor while she was at work: a police officer was inside her home. Joaceus ran home to find a BSO deputy walking out her front door with her 26-year-old son Jonathan's keys in his hands. Joaceus' son had just been arrested, she learned. From our original report:
Around 12:30 that day, [the deputy] had pulled over a green Volkswagen on nearby Southgate Boulevard after watching the car blow through a stop sign. The cabin reeked of weed, Dodge's arrest report later stated. The driver, Carlos Edouard, and a passenger, Jonathan Joaceus, both appeared to have green, leafy crumbs around their mouths; they eventually both admitted to eating marijuana, and [the deputy] charged both with tampering/destroying physical evidence. The deputy also found five cocaine rocks in Edouard's center console.
But the report does not include anything about what the deputy told Joaceus happened next: Jonathan supposedly gave [the deputy] his house keys, allowing the deputy free reign to drive over and search for drugs inside. The cop admitted he had no warrant, Joaceus says.
Shocked that law enforcement would go into her house without permission or a warrant, Joaceus declined to let the deputy back inside. Later, she swore out a complaint about the deputy's behavior. But although the charges were dropped against the driver of the car, Joaceus' son still faced a tampering/destroying physical evidence charge — until yesterday.
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This week, the State Attorney's office confirmed that the charge against Jonathan Joaceus was dropped. The case was scheduled to go to trial Monday. Although it's a victory for Joaceus and the Broward Public Defender's office, who handled the defense, it's bittersweet.
"It's good that they finally did the right thing," says Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, referring to the State Attorney. "What is frustrating is they've done the wrong thing for so long, and it's been done at great cost — not just to my client, but to my office and the State Attorney."
The case, Finkelstein says, should never have gone on for this long. "This was a no-brainer. This wasn't one where you had to do an in-depth investigation. It was very clear the police had an agenda in this case, and they were willing to lie and break the law to do it.
"The bottom line here: at the very worst, you have a young black man with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana," he says. "At the worst, you have the police lying and burglarizing and committing perjury. There is no way they would stop my children or myself, take the keys, and go into my house. That these officers felt emboldened to do this, is exactly why minority communities fear the police."